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I Don't Know What to Call It ... (Tanzania Trip Report June/July 2006)

I Don't Know What to Call It ... (Tanzania Trip Report June/July 2006)

Old Aug 1st, 2006, 12:53 PM
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I Don't Know What to Call It ... (Tanzania Trip Report June/July 2006)

...other than glorious, except perhaps:

1. Magnificent; splendid.
2. Delightful; wonderful.
3. Grand; superlative.

After a lifetime of planning, a year of putting the plan into action, and finally realizing my dream-come-true, I am home from a glorious 13-day safari to Tanzania.

The Dream:
I have used my lifelong dream of going to Africa many times in the “All About Me” workshop I facilitate as an Employment Counsellor. The gist: If your dreams are a picture of what you want your life to look like, you can move toward them and see them become reality!

The Planning:
After having collected Africa travel information for (literally) years and researching the valuable information on the Forum, I took the plunge and engaged Roy Safaris to help me sort out and book my itinerary. I was fortunate enough to have my 18-year-old son and 22-year-old daughter wanting to join me on the trip. They both took a year off from school to work and save up. By the time I contacted Roy’s almost a year prior to our planned trip date, we had a very good idea of when and where we wanted to go, and what we wanted to include in the trip. The planning was very exciting and we could hardly think of anything else! (You all know the feeling).

The Itinerary:
June 25: fly Victoria, BC Canada to London.
June 26-28: London, overnight Arran Hotel.
June 28: overnight flight London to Nairobi.
June 29: shuttle bus Nairobi to Arusha, overnight Impala Hotel.
June 30: Ngiresi Village Tour, Tarangire Park, overnight Tarangire River Camp.
July 1: Tarangire Park, overnight Tarangire River Camp.
July 2: Rift Valley Children’s Village visit, afternoon Ngorongoro Crater, overnight Ngorongoro Serena Lodge.
July 3: morning Ngorongoro Crater, afternoon Crater hike, overnight Ngorongoro Serena Lodge.
July 4: Oldupai gorge, shifting sands, game drive to western Serengeti, overnight Kirawira camp.
July 5: western Serengeti, overnight Kirawira camp.
July 6: northern Serengeti, overnight Lobo.
July 7: northern Serengeti, overnight Lobo.
July 8: central Serengeti, overnight Serengeti Serena lodge.
July 9: Lake Manyara, overnight Kirurumu camp.
July 10: Lake Manyara, Arusha shopping, day use Kia Lodge, evening flight Arusha to Nairobi, overnight Fairview Hotel.
July 11: Nairobi City tour including Giraffe Centre, Sheldrick elephant orphanage, Blixen Museum, Utamaduni, Collector’s Den, dinner at Carnivore.
July 12: overnight flight Nairobi to London, connecting flights London to Vancouver to Victoria.

The Safari:
Our main focus for the trip was game viewing, and we tried to plan an itinerary that would give us the best opportunity to catch part of the migration, hence the inclusion of stays in the western, northern and central Serengeti. We also wanted to stay in a variety of tented camp and lodge accommodations. We added a couple of cultural activities to round things out and I must say that we were generally very pleased with all of our choices. Up next: the details.
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Old Aug 1st, 2006, 01:05 PM
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Whatever you call it, please keep telling it. Thanks!
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Old Aug 1st, 2006, 01:13 PM
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OK, I am looking forward to readign this one!
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Old Aug 1st, 2006, 01:27 PM
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Yes, can't wait for more!
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Old Aug 1st, 2006, 01:32 PM
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Your kids took a year off to save for this trip? You are obviously an excellent parent! I can't wait to read more.

And welcome home!
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Old Aug 1st, 2006, 01:37 PM
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The details - a beginning...

We chose to take a shuttle bus from Nairobi to Arusha in order to get a glimpse of Kenya. The shuttle was to pick us up at Jomo Kenyatta airport, but we ended up having to take a shuttle to catch the shuttle!

We reluctantly let the driver hoist our belongings up to the roof of his decrepit-looking, already crowded vehicle, cover it with a seedy tarp of some kind and tie it all down (and I use the phrase as loosely as the ropes were) with rope only to have him then undo the whole arrangement, throw our bags back down to us and have us squeeze into the rattle trap, bags and all. The few square feet of available space on the bus were quickly consumed by the 3 of us and our bags, but the pleasant atmosphere of the others onboard and our happy demeanour made for an okay situation as we trundled off in the direction (we hoped) of the shuttle we were meant to be on.

Our first sites of the streets of Nairobi were a little overwhelming! We could never have imagined the loitering volumes of people in various forms of dress, the roadside shacks trying to pass as little places of business, all manner of transportation including foot, bikes, carts and vehicles of all shapes and stages of disrepair. As we pulled into a seedy looking gas station, farewells were called to us from all directions as we disembarked the one shuttle and reloaded onto the shuttle waiting to take us to Arusha. Phew! The first tiny stage of our journey was under way.

Although we were tired from the long plane trip from London to Nairobi, we were alert and keen not to miss anything on the road from there to Arusha. Our travelling companions included a Kenyan born (wealthy, white) woman living in the Ngong Hills of Nairobi, a gentleman who had just moved back to his birthplace in Tanzania after living for 40 years in our native Canada, and a student from Arusha who had just spent his first year away from home attending high school. An assortment of other individuals made for a shuttle bus full of people whose histories and stories spanned lifetimes and cultures. It was all a very interesting, eye opening and pleasant experience.

The Namanga border crossing was eventful! This kind of “no mans land” where Kenya ends and Tanzania begins is a fenced area full of “officials” from both countries, travellers (both local and tourists), vehicles of all descriptions, and animals. In a veil of dust, we left the shuttle to fill out the Kenya exit papers and have them approved, were accosted by locals trying to sell us jewellery and other trinkets, got back on the shuttle only to drive a minute or two to the Tanzanian side of the border crossing, and then “gave up” our passports and $50 for Tanzanian Visas to our driver who disappeared with them (much to my horror) to have them approved ... a dubious procedure that still leaves me feeling a bit sick. Others on the bus reassured me that this was the best and fastest way to have our paperwork processed. Whatever happened in the absence of our driver, passports and money, 15 minutes later we were exiting the Namanga border crossing and entering Tanzania. One and a half hours later we arrived at the Impala Hotel in Arusha – a welcome sight given the bumpy, rattle-ridden 5 hours we’d spent in the shuttle.

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Old Aug 1st, 2006, 04:16 PM
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I feel like I'm taking that shuttle all over again. This is wonderfully written, Calo. Can't wait to read your next installment.
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Old Aug 2nd, 2006, 11:01 AM
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The Impala Hotel has had mixed ratings on the forum. We found it to be adequate for one night but would not likely stay there again given the other options in and around Arusha. The dinner we had was exceptionally good, very reasonably priced, and served to us on a lovely terrace (which we had to ourselves) surrounded by beautiful gardens. We took advantage of the Internet café, which turned out to be the least expensive access to the Internet during our trip.

Our room was large and clean and looked out onto the nice pool area. I spent a restless night trying not to focus on the strange sounds of the street a few stories below our open window. It was a relief to get up the following morning and get the day started! The buffet breakfast was not particularly appealing. There seemed to be lots of variety, but nothing any of us really wanted or felt brave enough to try. Cereal seemed a safe bet, but the milk tasted very funky, so we downed our juice and went off to pack in time to meet our Roy Safaris guide.

At exactly the appointed time, our guide met us in the hotel lobby. All of us liked him immediately and it soon became apparent that his skills as a superlative driver and guide, extraordinary storyteller and teacher would elevate our fabulously memorable trip to absolutely remarkable. He selflessly shared his passion for, and knowledge of Tanzania and soon became our friend. We couldn’t have asked for any better!!

After a very short briefing at the Roy Safaris office, we were off in our very spacious, comfortable, new Toyota Land Cruiser which would be our workhorse for the next 12 days…

First stop: Ngiresi Village
About 7km out of Arusha, on the slopes of Mt Meru lives a community of Maasai known as the WaArusha tribe. These people have shifted from a life of pastoralism to agriculture. We spent a couple of hours walking around the sprawling Ngiresi settlement with a guide, learning about the culture and lives of its people. What an eye opener, especially for the kids! Highlights included being sung to by a schoolroom of primary school children, and invited into the tiny stick and mud home of a widow (who benefits financially from this cultural program) where she lives with her 6 children and 4 cows! Part of the fee we paid for this visit was being used to build a secondary school for the village. We watched the foundation for the school being dug by hand – it was smaller than my office at work!

And then it was on to Tarangire National Park – a lovely introduction to the African wildlife experience we had planned for. The park was abundant with every species of creature we were hoping to see, and lots that we had no idea even existed. It was in Tarangire that we had our first introduction to tse tse flies. Of course our guide (who knew every inch of the park) was instrumental in our learning about all of the wildlife including the amazing birds that were everywhere. We soaked it all in, absorbed in wonder and inspiration at our surroundings.

Tarangire River Camp was our first tented camp experience and it did not disappoint! It was charming – indigenous baobab trees were cleverly included in the design and placement of the lounge, dining room and tents. The staff was amazing, the food excellent, and the views from our tent’s huge veranda were breathtaking. There was a campfire each night where we could visit with other travellers from all over the world. We were thrilled to have our guide join us for our meals, and we took great pleasure during these times of having him teach us some Swahili and share amazing stories of growing up as a Maasai in the wilds of northern Tanzania. We spent 2 very comfortable nights at the River Camp waking occasionally to the sounds of lions and hyenas, and would go back in an instant.

Next up: Karatu and Ngorongoro ...

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Old Aug 2nd, 2006, 11:09 AM
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Over the border and into Tanzania! I remember the same feeling having my belongings strapped to the roof of the vehicle.

Looking forward to the rest of the dream!
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Old Aug 2nd, 2006, 01:30 PM
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Hi Mom *smiles*,

Yes, indeed, my heart is still in AhFreeKha.

<3
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Old Aug 2nd, 2006, 01:41 PM
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Hi Dreezy! So, you're reading this too, eh? Feel free to jump in with your comments about the trip too.

For those of you who aren't getting it -the previous post is from my daughter who was on this trip with me.

My next post is coming soon I hope - I find writing the trip report oddly therapeutic & stressful at the same time.
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Old Aug 2nd, 2006, 02:04 PM
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excellent. Yes, dreezy, do jump in.
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Old Aug 2nd, 2006, 02:16 PM
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It would be great to have a mom and daughter report!
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Old Aug 2nd, 2006, 06:15 PM
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Karatu to Ngorongoro
We had a lot to accomplish the day we left Tarangire, so we headed out right after breakfast in order to be on time for a prearranged visit to the Rift Valley Children’s Village (RVCV) outside the town of Karatu just south of the Ngorongoro Conservation Area.

The drive to Karatu was impressive. We drove up the Manyara escarpment with beautiful views of Lake Manyara on our left. The area is lush and green, with remarkable red soil that provides a dusty backdrop for this bustling place. Extensive, productive fields cover the hills and valleys surrounding the town making for a very pretty landscape, all of which is unfenced … no need for fences when there is always someone attending the flocks of animals. It was astonishing to watch the locals making their way up and down these same hills and valleys with great loads of wood, maize, and vegetables loaded onto their backs, bikes and carts of all description.

Somewhere, somehow our guide managed to find the correct turnoff to the RVCV just past the town of Karatu, and for the next 30 minutes we wound, bounced and slid our way along a red dirt wagon rut to the orphanage. How we ever managed to find this place I’ll never know – it seemed to be in the middle of the most obscure, isolated little patch of humanity we have ever encountered. Yet, here were locals scratching out a living from the land, likely not much different from the way they had been doing for generations and generations. The moment we alighted the chariot at the orphanage we were swarmed by the happy little children who call the RVCV home. Immediately, despite language and cultural barriers which suddenly became insignificant, they wanted us to play, carry and chase them around in the style typical of children everywhere .

Donations delivered, and visiting accomplished, we jostled our way back to the main road and on to the Ngorongoro highlands.

The very nice hardtop we’d been traveling on ended at the Ngorongoro Park gate beyond which there is only dirt/gravel road, and finally we were exiting the vehicle at the Lookout for our first glimpse of the Crater. This was a defining moment in the trip for each of us as we all gasped in unison at the sight before us. No words I can compose will ever be able to describe how I felt at that moment – to see THE site I’d waited a lifetime for was almost too much. I was in heaven and could hardly contain my excitement at the thought of getting down into the Crater for a game drive.

The descent road into the Crater is steep and rutted, but our guide skillfully zigzagged us down to the Crater floor where we spent hours exploring the grassland, swamp and forest habitats. The game viewing was phenomenal!

Ascending the Crater rim at the end of the day was exciting as we anticipated our lodge accommodation for the next 2 nights. The Ngorongoro Serena was fabulous in every regard. The staff was exceptional, our room was charming with a little verandah overlooking the Crater, the food was marvelous and the evening entertainment was fun. A tip here to others considering a stay at the Serena ... ask for an upper floor room. We did hear a minor complaint from someone with a first floor room that the vegetation was so lush that she didn’t have a Crater view.

Our second trip into the Crater the following morning was just as exciting and inspiring as the previous day’s visit and we took every opportunity to capture the beautiful Crater environments and inhabitants on film.

That afternoon, the kids went on a Crater rim hike which they both reported enjoying. They got some neat pictures of the lodge from up above, and also of the Serengeti plains off in the distance. I took the less strenuous local nature walk which was very informative. I was glad to have learned “Hapana asante” previously as I had the opportunity to use it with a little Maasai boy who wanted me to pay to take his picture. The combination of the Crater experience and the Serena Lodge made this part of our entire safari a favourite for all 3 of us. Such memories!

Next up: Kirawira and the Western Serengeti
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Old Aug 2nd, 2006, 09:16 PM
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Great trip report Calo, keep the words flowing! Tell me, who was your guide from Roy Safaris/ When my wife and I travelled there in October 2004 we were fortunate to have the services of Clamian, a Masai who added so much to the enjoyment of our trip by describing how he grew up, telling us tales of his family and his children. Plus he was an excellent animal spotter!
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Old Aug 2nd, 2006, 09:30 PM
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Hi GovernorPhil!

This is CalO's daughter (whom accompanied Mom on her trip).

We, too, were fortunate enough to have Clamian as our guide. He definately was a majour highlight in our trip, and his stories will forever be in my memory. I can still hear his tone of voice and jovial laugh when I recall the stories he told us of his childhood, and it whisks me right back to Africa (where I long to be).
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Old Aug 3rd, 2006, 05:14 AM
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I am really enjoying your report. Will there be pictures?
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Old Aug 3rd, 2006, 06:22 AM
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Good tip on the Serena in Ngorongoro--1st story may not have a view due to high vegetation.

What species did you see in the crater?
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Old Aug 3rd, 2006, 06:24 AM
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It’s a funny thing coming up with a trip report. As I write it, the memories keep it from being the simple, short summary I was aiming for….thanks for bearing with me and for your nice comments.
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Old Aug 3rd, 2006, 06:40 AM
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Atravelynn - There are an estimated 25,000 animals in the crater and we saw lots of them including wildebeest, zebra, Thompson's and Grant's Gazelles, hartebeest, lion (and lion killing a wildebeest), cheetah, hyena, elephant, rhino, warthog, hippo, buffalo, vervets and black-backed jackals. I think that about covers it - we didn't see giraffe or Impala (I understand there aren't any in the Crater) or leopard.

Some of the birdlife we saw: Kori bustard, Secretary bird, Crested crane, Maribou stock, Goliath Heron, Hamerkop, Francolin, Guinea Fowl, Oxpeckers, Fish Eagles, Ostrich, Egret, a variety of vultures, and flamingoes, plus the smaller species such as weavers and starlings.

It was all a fabulous introduction to the wildlife of Tanzania, all in a unique collection of little ecosystems - truly remarkable!
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